School is quickly approaching, often meaning life is about to get busier with homework, sports, and other activities.
With such a busy schedule, packing healthy lunch boxes regularly may seem like a task. Add on satisfying picky eaters, you may feel quite overwhelmed.
Ease into food prep with this beginner's guide on how to meal prep for picky eaters and those with healthy appetites.
Meal Prep for Picky Eaters and Healthy Appetites
Use these steps to get you familiar with the process of meal prepping to make packing lunches a breeze!
Step 1: Take Food Requests
Take special food requests of what the kiddos might want to see in their lunch box. Take their preferences into consideration, but stay true to good health choices.
If your child wants a frozen pizza, meet in the middle with pizza pita pockets detailed below.
Step 2: Create a Grocery List
After requests have been taken into account, create a list for a swift trip to the grocery store. Having a list in hand reduces the chance to roam aimlessly in the aisles and grab unnecessary items.
However, leave a little wiggle room in your grocery list and take advantage of weekly specials. Also, explore which fresh fruits and veggies may be in season.
Step 3: Shop the Store's Perimeter
Again, the grocery list does not need to be completely stuck to upon entering the store.
By shopping the store's border, you are likely to choose produce, fresh lean meat, and whole grains rather over prepackaged temptations. If fresh green beans were not on the list, but featured as a weekly deal, go for it!
Step 4: Start Meal Prepping
Now that the food items have been purchased, it is time to start on the weekly meal plan for school lunches!
Chop and assemble purchased goods to create those portioned or half-way prepared meals. Use sealed containers to keep food fresh once its ready to be put into use.
Share the responsibilities with children as well. Exposing healthy cooking at an early age promotes and instills nutritious choices and living for years to come.
Step 5: Organize and Store Meals
When storing meals, it is always smart to have an organizational game plan. Know which days you want each item and plan accordingly.
Before sending off the meal, add an ice pack to the lunch box to keep foods at a safe temperature.
Make-Ahead School Lunches
Having a little trouble coming up with kid-friendly, healthy meals? Do not fret!
Here are four make-ahead school lunches to get you started!
1. Pizza Pita Pockets
Picky eaters and those healthy with healthy appetites may have one food favorite in common: Pizza!
And pizza pita pockets can be made ahead of time and stored easily. And not to mention, customizable to accommodate many flavor palates.
Here are some example pizza combos to get you inspired:
• Simple cheese pizza: marinara sauce and various cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan
• Supreme pizza: turkey pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and cheddar and mozzarella cheeses
• Chicken pesto pizza: pesto sauce, grilled chicken, broccoli, pine nuts, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
• Bacon cheeseburger: crumbled turkey bacon, ground beef, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and cheddar cheese
• Breakfast pizza: boiled egg, turkey bacon, onions, peppers, and cheddar cheese
If available, have your child nuke pocket in the microwave to melt the cheese prior to eating. If not and as desired, warm the pita prior to cooling and storing for the cheese to melt.
2. Chicken Meatballs
Meatballs are simple, delicious, and protein-packed. While the recipe below uses ground chicken, feel free to use other proteins such as ground beef or turkey.
• 1 lb. lean ground chicken
• 1 small onion, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
• 1 whole egg, beaten
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
• ¼ cup parmesan, grated
• ½ teaspoon basil, dry
• ½ teaspoon fennel
• ¼ teaspoon paprika
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 425° F. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the diced onion and sauté until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Add ground chicken, Panko, egg, feta, parmesan, basil, fennel, paprika, black pepper and sea salt in a bowl. Combine until ingredients are mixed together well. Add cooled onion and garlic mixture and combine.
4. Roll the chicken mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Roast in the oven for about 18 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
The meatballs can be used in a number of ways. For instance, add to wheat pasta or zucchini noodles for spaghetti and meatballs. Or, add to a pita with melted cheese slices and sautéed veggies.
3. Herb Beef Sirloin Skewers
Skewers are a grilling time staple, but they can also serve as a simple meal prep idea. This herb beef sirloin skewers recipe also yields 24 skewers, in which two skewers is considered a serving size.
Pair with pita and tzatziki sauce as recommended or fresh veggies such as green beans. Add some natural sweetness to the meal by packing apple slice or other favorite fruits.
4. Mason Jar Salads
Mason jars are a convenient way to pack and carry salads (and get in veggies). These mason jar salad recipes are also versatile to help satisfy all tastebuds.
For the pickier eaters, try these:
• Untraditional pizza salad
• Pasta salad
• Tuna salad
• BLT salad
These salad recipes are great ideas for those with more seasoned palates:
• Sushi salad
• Avocado shrimp salad
• Thai chicken salad
• California quinoa salad